The Canon of Biblical Writings
For centuries now Christians have claimed to possess the special revelation of an omnipotent, loving Deity who is sovereign over all of His creation. This special revelation is in written form and is what has come to be known as The Bible which consists of two books. The first book is the Hebrew Scriptures, written by prophets in a time that was before Christ, and the second book is the New Testament, which was written by Apostles and disciples of the risen Lord after His ascension. It is well documented that Christians in the context of the early first century were used to viewing a set of writings as being not only authoritative, but divinely inspired. The fact that there were certain books out in the public that were written by followers of Jesus and recognized as being just as authoritative as the Hebrew Scriptures was never under debate. The disagreement between some groups of Christians and Gnostics centered on which exact group of books were divinely inspired and which were not. The debate also took place over the way we can know for sure what God would have us include in a book of divinely inspired writings. This ultimately led to the formation of the Biblical canon in the next centuries. Some may ask, “Isn’t Jesus really the only thing that we can and should call God’s Word?” and “Isn’t the Bible just a man made collection of writings all centered on the same thing, Jesus Christ?” This paper summarizes some of the evidences for the Old and New Testament canon’s accuracy in choosing God breathed, authoritative writings and then reflects on the wide ranging
implications of the process.
In regards to evidence for the divine authority of the Old Testament, Jesus’ words, parables, and actions in the New Testament force one to the conclusion that He viewed the Hebrew Scriptures as being “of God.” He quotes or alludes to over one hundred and fifty Old Testament passages in the Synoptic Gospels alone. According to another count, Jesus and the New Testament authors quote various parts of the Old Testament Scriptures over two hundred and ninety five times, while never quoting an apocryphal or outside source one time. These quotations of Old Testament sources imply their belief in the divine inspiration of the Hebrew Scriptures. Many times Jesus would precede a statement with the phrase “So it is written,” or “Scripture says.” The authority of the Hebrew Scriptures was not ever called into question by Christ or His early followers, it was the belief in the normative status of the law, pertaining to all people for righteousness before God, that was not adhered to. That Jesus held to the Hebrew Scriptures as being authoritative is obvious. What is not obvious is exactly what collection of Hebrew writings was viewed as inspired by God in Jesus’ day.
Was Jesus’ “Old Testament” different from the one we have in our possession in the twentieth century? Justin Martyr, Origen,...